Chaijitos and calamari down at Bombay-on-Thames.
Dishoom, the old Bombay style cafe in Covent Garden, has hit the beach with this new pop-up project down on London's South Bank. Based on the shacks lining the eponymous Chowpatty Beach they have created a striking space, with its electric colours and bright canopy, that stands out against the brutalist concrete of Queen Elizabeth Hall.
After hearing on the tweet vine that they were 'quietly' opening on Monday, four days before their official launch, I pusuaded the Ewing to sack off work early hit the town. Arriving at about half four we were greeted by a sea of eager waitstaff, resplendeant in their neon t-shirts, who told us that that they had only been open for a couple of hours before our arrival. Despite their lack of practice, service was fast and friendly and there was a lively buzz about the place.
A cold Kingfisher, Thums Up Cola and a Chaijito. I wanted to try one of the famed Gola Ices, but they were off the menu, so I settled for a refreshing beer and the famous Indian carbonated beverage Thums Up. This was reminiscent of the cola made in my cousin's Soda Stream back in the 80's, in a good way. The Ewing's chaijito was quite delicious, chai infused rum and fresh mint leaves, pepped up with the addition of cracked coriander seeds.
We also decided to share a few snacks. The naan rolls still weren't ready but we were able to order beach snacks and meals. These are ordered and paid for at the bar and then collected at the kitchen window. Everything is finished to order, but luckily we seemed to be the only ones eating, so the wait time was short. After collecting our haul we moved to the seating areas outside to enjoy some late afternoon sunshine.
As we were tucking in one of the guys involved in the project came out to see if we were enjoying the food, and give us a bit of background on the build. Based on the concept of 'jugaad' (literally work around) many of the materials used are reclaimed or recycled. These include the benches outside, made from Scottish railway sleepers, a canopy made from carrier bags and a wall comprised of rolled newspapers. The Ewing was particularly interested in the packing crates used in the frontage, I think she might have her eye on reclaiming them herself when they close at the end of the summer...
The food was good. Calamari was crisp and greaseless with a nice, sweet aftertaste that played off well against the zing of lime and chilli. By the time I had taken a few snaps of the rest of the food the Ewing had polished most of these off, a testament to its tastiness.
Vada Pau is the very popular street eat, not featured on their original menu, featuring a potato cake served in a toasted bun. Potentially this could have been a carb overload, but the filling was pillowy light and nicely spiced. As the roll was also soft I found that the textures were quite similar, and personally would have liked a little crunch or chew in there somewhere.
The Pau Bhaji is a traditional Chowpatty Beach snack of mashed vegetables served with buttered bread. I really enjoyed the creamy, spicy earthiness of the curry, livened up nicely with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and onions. The dish also packed a good chilli punch, that I welcomed but the Ewing found a little too feisty.